It's often been said that teams like Auburn, Texas A&M, and Oregon don't have good defenses. If you only rely on archaic stats such as points against and yards against then you could be justified in your opinion. That similar line of thinking is measuring a baseball player's effectiveness on the number of RBIs he hits. You can look at stats such as points-per-possession, yards-per-play, or even S&P+ to get a better idea on defensive effectiveness. The dogma continues that a lot of defenses that play on fast-tempo, offensive teams are simply not up to par with the likes of Alabama and LSU. The moves that Auburn and Texas A&M made this offseason might be great case studies to challenge the current dogma and maybe give insight on what accurate expectations we can have for the Oregon defense.
We have seen that Oregon's defense can take over a game. In the PAC-12 title game against Arizona the Ducks outgained the Wildcats 640-224 and rushed for 324, almost triple Arizona's rushing yards, 111. It wasn't until 35 minutes into the game that Arizona finally scored. The game was well over at that point due to Oregon being up 30-0. In the first half the Wildcats rarely made it to midfield. The final score of 51-13 was not nearly indicative of how far apart these two teams were that night.
Auburn and Texas A&M had two of the worst defenses in college football last season and are attempting to remedy the situation by bringing in big-time defensive coordinators.
Auburn was having a great season with a record of 7-1 with a win over #4 Ole Miss before dropping their last three games against FBS opponents. They allowed 41 to Texas A&M, 34 to Georgia, and 55 (55!) to Alabama in the Iron Bowl. The defense essentially blew the season for the Tigers. So what did Auburn do in the off-season? Hire Will Muschamp. Muschamp might have been a terrible head coach whose offense resembled someone vomiting all over themselves outside of Taylor's but his defenses, even at Florida, were top-notch.
Texas A&M gave up 48 points to Mississippi State, 35 to Ole Miss, and 59 to Alabama (where the Aggies were scoreless). This off-season the Aggies hired John Chavis who has run some of the best defenses in football at LSU. He's being paid $1.7 million to make the Texas A&M defense functional.
The reason why I mention points against rather than the more advanced and probably more accurate representative statistics for defense is because until the points and yards against subside on the fast-tempo, spread teams then there won't be a change in ideology.
With two of the best defensive coordinators in the sport coaching at two of the most high-powered offenses in the country we might find an answer to how good a defense can be. Dealing with the large amount of possessions against them and teams playing catch-up we'll see if defenses can hold up. Auburn was the team in 2013 that I thought was the new Oregon. With Gus Malzahn they had one of the most exciting and innovative offenses in football. Now they might have taken the next step in forming what might be a maximized team in football.
Oregon's defense is fine. At least when they rush the quarterback with more than three guys. But my real question is should fans of top offensive teams settle for fine. Can defenses facing a lot of possessions be as dominant as Alabama's are. LSU and Texas A&M have the right coaches in place and are in a hotbed of the most talented players in the country. If anyone can pull this off and be breaking new ground on what defenses can do it's these two teams. I'm looking towards A&M and Auburn this year as an experiment. While we can't control for variables, as football exists as chaos or under the uncertainty principle depending on your cosmological beliefs, but my hypothesis is that these teams, maybe as early as next year, can be dominant forces that go with their amazing offenses, both in the advanced statistics and the old ones. These teams have a great chance of re-defining what we expect from defenses and might create a new standard for Oregon to reach for.